EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR helps clients activate their natural healing processes.
How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR therapy integrates elements of traditional psychological orientations and is based on the adaptive information processing model (AIP). The AIP model hypothesizes that there is an inherent information processing system in the brain that gets blocked when traumatic or adverse events occur, causing these events to get locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Whenever a reminder of the traumatic or adverse event comes up, those pictures, thoughts, feelings, and sensations can continue to be triggered. According to Dr. Shapiro, many emotional problems and disorders are manifestations of these unprocessed trauma memories that are stored in the brain. EMDR therapy works on helping the brain reprocess these traumatic memories, and as a result alleviating the emotional and psychological disorders.
EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment that integrates past events, current triggers and future templates leading to increased adaptation. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.” The insights clients gain in EMDR result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution.
Who Can Benefit from EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy approach developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro to help people heal from trauma or adversities such as issues of abuse, bullying, depression, anxiety, domestic violence, grief/loss, attachment wounds, abandonment, PTSD, and many other complicated life issues. Disturbing events are all valid regardless of how small or large they appear to be or if they occurred once or on numerous occasions.
EMDR therapy is now validated as an evidence-based approach that has been shown in numerous studies to be an effective form of treatment with adults, children and teens. Relief is available.
Is EMDR an efficacious treatment for PTSD?
EMDR therapy is recognized as an effective trauma treatment and recommended worldwide in the practice guidelines of both domestic and international organizations.
How frequent are EMDR sessions?
Sessions are conducted on a weekly basis, and occasionally, twice per week depending on the severity of the symptoms.
How long are EMDR sessions?
Sessions are typically 90 minutes long.
How many sessions will it take?
The number of sessions depends on the client’s specific presenting problems and the complexity of his or her history.